Have We Relinquished Our Control to Technology?Season 4 of Netflix's Black Mirror Answers For Us All.

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If one idea is universal, if its one notion that we all share — regardless of race, creed, or nation of origin it is the idea of freedom.

 

The notion of not being told what to do, or of being free to follow our will wherever that may lead us to: a heaven or hell, is collective to us all.

The idea of controlling one’s own destiny is tattooed on the heart of every American. Whichever continent your family is from: North America, South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Europe, or Asia — Americans are known for being trail blazers.

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But, you might say, “What about slavery, women’s rights, or the rights of the LGBT community?”

That's exactly the point. In each of those examples it has been the oppressor that has fallen as the oppressed have risen above their circumstances.

Tyrants and their tyranny that they dispose does not last. In the darkest of days, it may seem that the individual is snuffed out under a Dictator’s thumb, but we fight back, we resist — eventually, we get sick and tired of being sick and tired.

 

But, what happens when you have too much of a good thing?

In America, and dare I say most of the world at this point, we have lived in such comfort that most struggle is gone. We might have to worry about paying rent, but do we ever truly despair at the thought of having food to eat?

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Capitalism has created entities for us to depend on.

Most people wake up in the morning go to work for someone else. They do so because it takes the responsibility off their plate and replaces it with comfort. 

Oh, what the average person will put up with to avoid pain — the mediocrity that we exchange for comfort is astounding when we ignore the fact that any true pleasure comes from the learning how to struggle correctly.

 
It’s true that there can be too much of any good thing. Candy softens the teeth. Liquor rots the liver. Tobacco takes the breath out of the lungs.
— Mercy not Sacrifice by Dan Parks

Quick plug for my recently debuted novel, Mercy not Sacrifice. Get it by pressing that fancy button below.

In America, we have given up our control for convenience. We have sacrificed freedom for comfort.

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Singer-songwriter David Ramirez's 'Stone Age' highlights this idea.

"Give a man freedom and he’ll sit in a cage

Give him oppression and he’ll write about it on an Internet page

Our fathers were drinkers 'cause we shipped them off to war

And I’m drunk on a Tuesday 'cause I’m just so fucking bored"

 

Have we relinquished our control to technology? 

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"Black Mirror is a British science fiction anthology television series that examines modern society with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are anthologies, represented as standalone episodes, they are set in an alternative present or the near future oftentimes with a dark and satirical nature and some contain a more experimental and lighter tone." ("Black Mirror")

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The essence of Black Mirror's Season 4 is control and the fight over who holds it.

Released on Netflix on December 29 of 2017 each of it's six episodes pack a punch. Strong female leads drive the audience through mountain peak highs and dark valleys of despair. It was a season that didn't disappoint the expectations that were set for it. 

Watch the trailer for Black Mirror's Season 4:

A Critical Analysis of Black Mirror's Season 4


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4.1 - USS Callister

 

USS Callister is a rollercoaster episode, we are fooled at first by a supposed happy voyage upon a space ship in which a fearless captain leads the way through space with a determined and content crew. However, once that first mission is over so is his power when the aforementioned 

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captain wakes up to a reality in which he doesn't quite fit in.

Infinity is an online virtual reality game created by two men which had tremendous success in the world of this episode. The 'captain' is an introverted recluse without a backbone serving as the Chief Technical Officer in the real world while his partner is the polished and charming CEO. When a new woman joins the office the 'captains' interest gets perked, but he needs to transfer her to his world -- the one where he has power; he needs to upload her to the his game.

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Unlike the rest of the crew on the ship the new woman does take well to orders. 

USS Callister is a battle through space in the universe of autonomy. When pushed to their limit of restriction -- the crew fights back and over takes the tyranny of the 'captain'.

 
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4.2 - Arkangel 

Arkangel is rife with the conflict of parental governance and the unique experience of childhood. Like two fists coming together at the knuckles -- a mother's protecting nature battles against a daughters will to explore.

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After almost losing her daughter, a mother signs up for a free trial of a new technology that allows her to keep track of her child. 

This new technology allows the mother unprecedented monitoring of her child. 

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With an iPad like screen the mother can see what her daughter sees and 'filter' her experience of life for 'safety'.

It has been said, "It's pressure that makes the pearl." And it's our difficulties in childhood and how we overcome them that make us the people that we can become.

Eventually, the mother realizes this when her daughter is about 9 years old. Life goes on for the young girl, but when she matures into early adulthood and begins to experience more adult like things the mother can't resist her ability of control with the monitor. 

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The 'love' that was behind the mother's protective nature does not end well.

It was John Milton in his Paradise Lost that said, "It's better to reign in Hell then serve in Heaven." 

When the daughter realizes that her mother has witnessed her first time with her boyfriend, watched her use drugs, and secretly given her the morning after pill in her breakfast smoothie she has had enough and she rebels.

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Arkangel, at it's best, displays a perverse version of love.

Recall the band Mumford & Son's first album's title track Sigh No More

Love, it will not betray you
Dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be

Love is never about restriction it is always about freedom.

 
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4.3 - Crocodile

Crocodile is a mind-bending episode about control and what we will do to keep it.

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A past mistake comes to the present for a successful self-made woman.

The exposure of this secret will ruin the life that she has made for herself and she'll do anything to keep it hidden.

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Even if that means murder.

But, what happens when across the spectrum there is another woman just as driven as you are -- with the exception that her intentions are pure.

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When an insurance investigator gains access to the women's memory all hell breaks lose.

The woman can't outrun what she's done, but even that realization doesn't stop her from spiraling downward. She kills the woman and the woman's husband and their child. 

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When is enough -- enough? The memory machine used in Crocodile brings the idea of an 'eye-witness' in an investigation to a whole new level. The episode takes the idea of search warrants, surveillance, and personal property to a wild extreme. 

If we're not entitled to the freedom of our mind or our memory what do we have left? 

 
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4.4 - Hang the DJ

Hang the DJ is a lighter hearted episode built on the thought of compatibility and how far we are going to allow digital services to find us the 'ideal' mate.

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A couple is set up on a date by their electronic Coach.

The couple that meets on their first date have an instant connection, but they are told by the Coach how long they should spend together and it's only for one night.

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After only 12 hours together the 'Coach' has them move on to see other people.

The man goes through one long and laborious relationship -- while the woman bounces from person to person. 

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Eventually, the Coach pairs them up again, but after realizing how in love that they are the coach tells them to split up once more. 

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At being told the final time to separate they rebel against the Coach and the System that find themselves in. At this they realize that their whole experience has been a sort of Truman Show artificial experience that was designed for them to fight against.

It was only after they resisted the restrictions placed upon them that were set free. It was their search, their fight, and their struggle that was important. They had to want to be together, in a Romeo & Juliet way, before it was worth it to stay together.

The control of their lives was theirs the whole time they just had to choose it. 

 
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4.5 - Metalhead

Metalhead is an exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting episode of television. A small group of scavengers set off in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world. It's at a warehouse that they encounter threat that no human can defeat.

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In Metalhead's world, the role of security and policing has been given to guard dogs, but these aren't the typical dog -- these robotic little devils are capable of just about anything in the pursuit of their target.

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And the robot-dog found it's target.

The scavenger woman's escape from the robot-dog tell us much about her character. She's strong, independent, and hell-bent on surviving.

The chase displays just how far the world has fallen in the episode of Metalhead, and how tough the people that are still alive must be to have made it that far. It's reminiscent of The Walking Dead's universe -- as every survivor has done something, be it right or wrong; everyone is just trying to survive. 

She puts up an honorable fight by taking out the first robot-dog, but upon it's release to digital heaven it explodes with some kind of tracker grenade and the robot-dogs keep coming after her. 

She decides to give up, but on her own terms.

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The synopsis of Metalhead is if we ever farm out the role of justice to robots, artificial intelligence, or technology in general the human element will be gone. Which, on the surface level may seem like a good thing, but while eliminating error will also delete the positives of the human soul like: grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  

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4.6 - Black Museum

Black Museum is a grand finale of Season 4. It envelopes inside of it many of the storylines of the episodes of the season. What it does better than the rest is provide a twist ending. 

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Black Museum starts with a girl on a journey.

It appears as if she stumbles across the Black Museum in the middle of the desert. She wanders up to the building apparently open to whatever is inside.

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The proprietor of of the museum enthusiastically greats her at the door.

The young woman is led around the museum and explained the story behind each artifact. 

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The proprietor had been involved with most of the artifacts as a salesman in Tech. However, while revolutionary, the inventions that he trafficked in always contained a catch -- each story was finished with a 'but' of how something went wrong. 

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A doctor wanting to diagnose his patients caught addicted to feeling their pain.

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The consciousness of a deceased woman gets placed inside of her husbands head to give her access to her son.

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The digital consciousness of a convict gets uploaded to a prison cell inside the museum.

There in lies the twist. Before his execution, this convict signed over his digital self to the proprietor of the Black Museum with the hope of the revenue providing for his family after his death.

He didn't know what he would be subjected to once his digital self went 'live'.

The woman visiting the Black Museum turns out to be the convicts daughter and she is there on a revenge mission to get back at the proprietor for what he has done to her father.  

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She subjects him to the same pain that he has put people through at his attempts at a career and profit.

Black Museum experiments with the idea that there is no such thing as a 'free lunch'. Our actions have consequences and the development of new technology isn't always a safe thing. The finale episode of Black Mirror is a warning siren of what will happen if we consent to sacrificing privacy for progress.

 

Black Mirror serves us by reflecting where we might be heading. Why is the mirror black, you might ask -- because the future is always unknown and is to be made day-by-day. 

Stand up, wipe that glass off, and open your eyes so that you can see clearly and realize that the mirror of tomorrow is right before you. 

 

Have we relinquished our control to technology? Yes, we have.

All those opt-ins for free social media platforms are creating webs of information about you so that you can be sold to.

What you like on Facebook, what you hashtag on Instagram & Twitter, and the ads that you click on Google are stored and placed in algorithms so that actions are predictable and that you can be marketed to.

Is it ok? I get something free!

Season 4 of Netflix's Black Mirror tells us to beware of the extreme that could take us to.

 

Don't miss Season 4 of Black Mirror -- it will blow you away. 

 

     - Dan


Works Cited

“Black Mirror.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Jan. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mirror.